We’ve done our research, interrogated our friends, chatted with fellow explorers, and pieced together a pretty spectacular group of places that are sure to satisfy your wanderlust. It may be hard to choose a new, unique destination for 2019, so look no further than this Tiplr approved list!
1. CAIRO, EGYPT
Every year, millions of tourists flock to the Great Pyramid of Giza, but in 2019, you should consider exploring Egypt’s lesser-known pyramids, as well. There are three pyramids worth visiting in the Dahshur necropolis, located just 25 miles outside of Cairo. These pyramids were closed to visitors for a while, due to the presence of an army camp nearby, but they are now open to the public. The Bent Pyramid was built by Pharaoh Sneferu and is even older than the Great Pyramid. It gets its name from its bent appearance, which is the result of an early attempt to build a smooth-sided pyramid. Sneferu finally got it right with the Red Pyramid, which is the third-largest pyramid in Egypt and gets its name from the red color of its limestone. The best part about the Red Pyramid is that you can explore its interior and have a look at the burial chamber. The Pyramid of Amenemhat III was constructed during the Middle Kingdom and is a black-colored pyramid that, due to its unstable structure, resembles a giant rock jutting out of the ground. These three pyramids are away from all the tourist hustle and bustle and provide a peaceful experience as you marvel at the ancient structures.
If you’re not tired of the ancient Egyptians’ penchant for morbidity, then you can go for a quick visit to Cairo’s City of the Dead, which is a neighborhood that has been built around tombs and mausoleums. This ancient cemetery is now home to 500,000 Egyptians who work, sleep, eat, and play in a graveyard. Another interesting neighborhood is the Coptic part of Cairo. Located in Old Cairo, Coptic Cairo is the place where the history of Christianity in Egypt is represented. It is believed that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph stayed in what is now the Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church. It is also worth visiting The Hanging Church, along with the places of worship of two other religions, including the Mosque of Amr Ibn El-Aas and the Ben Ezra Synagogue, where baby Moses was found and where important Jewish manuscripts, known as the Cairo Geniza, were discovered. After touring pyramids and absorbing tons of information all day, relax at the Al-Andalus Garden, a beautiful and romantic garden next to the Nile River.
Also new to Cairo in 2019, the Grand Egyptian Museum. Costing more than a billion dollars to build, and at 5.2 million square feet, it will be the largest museum in the world that is dedicated to one single civilization. Their collection is extensive with over 50,000 ancient objects. Amongst them are 5,000+ artifacts connected to young king Tutankhamun or King Tut to most of us. The trip is well worth seeing his six chariots and funerary bed with your own eyes, as well as amazing views of the Sphinx and surrounding pyramids.
2. HILL COUNTRY, TEXAS
Wine lovers, here’s a destination for you! Stretching across 25 counties and nearly nine million acres, Texas Hill Country is one of the fastest-growing wine regions and tourist destinations in the United States. That being said, it still doesn’t have the reputation of Napa, so now is the perfect time to go. They produce wine from grape varieties you would usually find in places like Spain, southern France, and Italy, like Tempranillos and Cabernets.
Wine may attract travelers to the region, but there are many other reasons to add it to your 2019 travel list. From unexpected landscapes, think rivers skirted by cypress trees, to unique German towns like Boerne and New Braunfels, to hidden swimming holes, and towns dedicated to music, there’s no shortage over things to see and do in Hill Country.
3. KOH PHAYAM & LITTLE KOH CHANG, THAILAND
Koh Phayam’s beaches are ideal places for those who like to lie on the sand with a book without having to worry about spring breakers stumbling over you. Ayo Kwang Peeb Beach is one of those beaches and it is a lovely place to swim in peace. For more action, head to Ao Yai, or Big Bay, where you can surf. Ao Khao Kwai, also known as Buffalo Bay, is divided into two beaches. North Ao Khao Kwai is where all the parties, resorts, and bars are, while South Khao Kwai is quieter and more relaxed. Diving is a popular activity on the island, and there are various dive spots where you can see coral, sea horses, manta rays, and other exotic sea creatures. Koh Phayam is also known for its mangroves, which are tropical trees that are quite striking to those who have never seen such flora before. You can view them by kayak and acquaint yourself with the island’s plants and animals. History buffs may be bummed to find out that Koh Phayam isn’t home to many museums, but that doesn’t mean that the island isn’t filled with culture and history. Wat Koh Phayam temple combines both Thai and Burmese cultures and features an imposing statue of Buddha. It is a very interesting temple, as the main temple is attached to the coast, while the prayer sanctuary is in the middle of the sea and is connected to the temple by a bridge, in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings. You’ll likely encounter villagers and monks while visiting this sacred site.
Little Koh Chang, otherwise known as Koh Chang Noi, is a minimally populated island that is for those who want a truly secluded experience in a place that has not been touched by tourism. Visitors to Little Koh Chang must love nature and be able to survive without hot water, television, and reliable WiFi. Ao Yai is the most popular beach, but all of the beaches have clear water and are good for swimming. Other activities include fishing, kayaking, diving, and playing volleyball on the beach. In March, cashews are harvested. The locals are very friendly and the tourists are mostly made up of artist-types, so you won’t feel completely alone on this island. If 2019 is the year that you’d like to kick your internet addiction and spend some time by yourself in nature, then Koh Phayam and Little Koh Chang are the best places for that.
Adventure junkies will love Greenland, and one of the best places to experience Greenlandic nature and culture is Kulusuk, an island off the coast of Greenland that is a paradise for hikers. The island is home to Kulusuk airport, fjords, icy waters, and a community of 250 people who love sharing their culture with visitors. Climb the Isikajia Mountain and view Greenland’s extraordinary landscape, along with icebergs and the Denmark Strait. Kulusuk Island is a great place to learn about the Inuit people who call Greenland home, and you can meet with local storytellers, watch locals partake in the East Greenlandic tradition of drum dancing, and view Tupilak figurines.
Tasiilaq, East Greenland’s largest town, can be reached from Kulusuk in just 10 minutes by airplane. In the summertime, take a boat tour to the Sermilik fjord, and in the winter, go dog sledding and attempt to cross from East Greenland into West Greenland via the Greenland ice sheet. Tasiilaq has become an artistic hub, with many young people flocking there to pursue music and photography. That being said, Greenland’s art culture should not be overlooked, even though most people do not associate Greenland with the arts.
In the town of Qaqortoq, local artist Aka Hoegh, along with other Nordic artists, began an art project known as “Stone & Man,” which consists of sculptures and carvings that depict traditional Greenlandic symbols. The carvings and sculptures are scattered throughout Qaqortoq and new pieces will continue to pop up since this is an ongoing project. Whether you’re looking for a wintery adventure or a taste of Inuit culture, you should put Greenland on your 2019 travel list.
You’ve heard of paradises like Fiji and French Polynesia but have you ever considered Tonga? This small Pacific country rarely makes headlines (except for their extremely fit Olympic flag bearer), but its’ 170 islands are still relatively untouched, making it a supremely unspoiled and authentic destination for smart travelers. Let’s state the obvious first. The beaches are spectacular and the locals are lovely. It is also one of the few places in the world where you can swim with humpback whales! Tongatapu, the largest island, features blowholes, a giant lagoon and plenty of cultural and historical sites. Hop over to ‘Eua to hike and trek through rainforests and see wild ponies.
As you venture north, the islands become more remote but both Ha’apai and Vava’u are worth visiting. This is where you can truly relax and get away from it all. Despite seeming like an unattainable destination, travelers can experience Tonga on any budget, from a hostel hut or a luxury resort.
6. GALWAY, IRELAND
Galway was named the European Capital of Culture for 2020, and it’s not hard to see why. Food, art, history, and fun await any traveler headed there this year. Galway loves oysters so much that every year they host the Galway International Oyster Festival, which will take place from September 27th to September 29th, 2019. For another unique dining experience, go to the Glenlo Abbey Hotel and have a meal in one of the Orient Express’ carriages.
Galway has a fascinating history and is home to two castles: Fiddaun Castle and Menlo Castle. There is also an important archaeological site called Dun Aonghasa, which is a fort located on the Aran Islands that dates back to the Bronze and Iron Ages. The Seven Churches, also located on the Aran Islands, aren’t as old as Dun Aonghasa, but these ancient buildings are one of Ireland’s first pilgrimage sites. In terms of more recent history, in 1960, the MV Plassy, a steam trawler, got caught in a storm and washed up on the smallest of the Aran Islands, known as Innis Oirr. Nowadays, you can visit the rusted ship, which looks quite eerie but is nevertheless a cool site.
As far as arts and culture go, Galway is jam-packed with all sorts of artistic and cultural things to do. The Galway Centre of the Arts offers classes and workshops for painters, writers, photographers, singers, and actors. Galway was always a hub for writers, and it continues to be one today. Visit Charlie Byrnes Bookshop in Galway City, which contains over 100,000 books of all genres. It’s no wonder that Ireland’s most famous poet, W.B. Yeats, found inspiration in Galway’s Coole Park, which boasts rows of beautiful trees and rare seasonal lakes, known as turloughs, that disappear and reappear depending on the season. These lakes are unique to Ireland. Coole Park also features the Autograph Tree that famous Irish writers, including Yeats and George Bernard Shaw, carved their initials into. The former owner of Coole Park, Lady Augusta Gregory, was an active participant in the Celtic revival movement and used her property as a means to celebrate Irish arts.
Before you leave Galway, there are two things you must do. First, a visit to Roisin Dubh is a must. This pub has live music and comedy acts, as well as Silent Disco events. Second, you have to dive into the Atlantic. The citizens of Galway love to dive, and you can go scuba diving or just take a quick plunge into the ocean from the Blackrock Diving Tower.
7. SACRED VALLEY, PERU
In the Sacred Valley, you can uncover the mysteries of Inca civilization. The Ollantaytambo ruins were once a town where Inca nobility lived and where an important battle between the Inca and the Spanish was fought. Moray is another must-see archaeological site, and it showcases how advanced the Inca were. Made up of circular rings, Moray is thought to have been an experiment in which farmers would test different soils to see where crops would grow best. The Inca created the Salinas de Maras, or salt ponds, in the 15th century, and today, you can buy salt from locals at the market. The archaeological site of Huchuy Qosqo was once a citadel and is not to be missed, especially since it offers spectacular views of the mountains. Historical adventures seem to never end in the Sacred Valley, but in fact, they do. The Inca would stop and rest at Wiñay Wayna before finally reaching Machu Picchu, and you can too if you choose to camp there.
For a mixture of history and Peruvian culture in the Sacred Valley, head to Pisac. This village is known not only for its archaeological site but also for its market. The ruins include a shrine, a temple, baths, altars, aqueducts, and cemeteries. In the village, you can go shopping in the market every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday and browse through traditional products, like blankets, alpaca sweaters, and ceramics. Another thing to do in the Sacred Valley besides hiking through ruins and going shopping is to unleash your inner adrenaline junkie. Fly over the Sacred Valley on the Eye of the Jaguar zip-line, which is the longest zip-line in Peru. You can also see the Sacred Valley by taking a rafting tour of the Urubamba River or by horseback riding through the valley. If you’re really feeling adventurous and aren’t afraid of heights, try sleeping in a pod that is attached to the side of one of the Sacred Valley’s mountains. Skylodge Adventure Suites offers this unique opportunity that certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. Perhaps your New Year’s resolution is to be more adventurous, bold, and daring. If so, the Sacred Valley is the place to fulfill it.
Despite being home to 33 extraordinary (and public) beaches, Anguilla is still an underrated Caribbean destination. Fly to the island, or take a ferry from Saint Martin, and then rent a car to see as many gorgeous beaches and sights as you can. Even the more popular spots are less crowded than the average Caribbean one.
Anguilla is known for its superb cuisine, including fine dining, fantastic wine, and fresh seafood. Order crayfish and try local street food at Ken’s BBQ. Dance to live reggae music, rum punch in hand. After fully indulging in food and drink, work it off with plenty of watersports, golf, and yoga. Finally, no trip to Anguilla would be complete without a sailing trip. Locals and visitors both agree it’s one of the best ways to see the island and explore it’s hidden gems.
In the past few years, Mozambique in southeast Africa has become very tourist-friendly and much of its appeal comes from its beautiful beaches and nature reserves. Mozambique is a former Portuguese colony, and after gaining independence in the 1970s, the country fell into a violent civil war that lasted two decades. Nowadays, Mozambique is a peaceful nation that is becoming a hub of ecotourism. Gorongosa National Park was largely destroyed during the civil war, but now it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. In June of 2018, Mozambique’s government and the Carr Foundation, an American non-profit, renewed their agreement to continue managing the park together for the next 25 years. That means that in 2019, Gorongosa National Park will continue to thrive. 2018 also saw the return of African wild dogs to the park, so those who visit in 2019 have that to look forward to. The park offers various safari tours, including walking safaris and boat and canoe safaris. You’ll get to see Africa’s most magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, including lions, elephants, and hippos. Mount Gorongosa is a secluded mountain where completely unique creatures like the Mount Gorongosa Pygmy Chameleon can be found. Not only is a visit to Gorongosa National Park a once in a lifetime chance to see rare species, but it also benefits local communities and conservation efforts.
There are many beaches in Mozambique where you can take a swim in the crystal blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Tofo is a beach town that boasts gorgeous beaches that aren’t packed with tourists, as well as aquatic activities like scuba diving and snorkeling. Praia da Costa do Sol, located in the capital city of Maputo, is another lovely beach to go to. While in Maputo, it’s worth visiting the National History Museum, which exhibits taxidermy and native artifacts. Núcleo de Arte, also in Maputo, is the place for art lovers. You can view the work of rising artists and even interact with them and watch them work. Mozambique also has several islands that should not be missed, including the Quirimbas Islands, which are perfect for diving. Inhaca Island is another one of Mozambique’s wonders that is ideal for diving and snorkeling through reefs. Put Mozambique on your New Year’s to-do list, and discover a country that is teeming with beauty and adventure.
10. GRANADA, NICARAGUA
Although it’s one of the country’s most popular cities, Granada has a lot to do in terms of outdoors activities, and one place to visit is the Laguna de Apoyo Natural Reserve. Laguna Apoyo is Nicaragua’s cleanest and deepest lake, which of course makes it the ideal place to swim. You can also hike, kayak, scuba dive, and look for monkeys! Masaya Volcano National Park is Nicaragua’s largest national park and it is where you can find an active volcanic crater that spits lava. At night, you’re allowed access to the crater to have a quick look at it.
For a more cultural experience, visit Casa de los Tres Mundos, which is a foundation that promotes the arts. Located in a mansion, the foundation hosts various cultural events, and if you step into the mansion, you can view art created by Nicaraguan artists. Calle La Calzada is Granada’s tourist district that is filled with artists, street performers, bars, and restaurants. Parque Central is another interesting and fun part of this vibrant city. Look at the various statues, admire or hop on one of the colorful horse carriages, or just sit on a bench and watch the locals go about the day. Granada also has great markets, like Mercado Municipal, which is located in and around a building. This market is for the locals, but it’s worth taking a walk around and perhaps even buying some mangoes or plantains. Cigar smokers will love Nicaragua, where the cigar industry is huge. Go to the Mombacho Cigar Factory for a tour and learn about tobacco products and how cigars are made. The factory is in a historical mansion, and at the end of the tour, you can make your way to the roof terrace for some amazing views of Granada. This colonial city is packed with history, and one interesting historical place to visit is Granada’s cemetery, which is absolutely beautiful and is where many famous and important Nicaraguans are buried. While this cemetery is prettier than it is spooky, the abandoned San Juan de Dios Hospital is a bit eerier. This hospital is now in ruins and is over a century old. It’s a forbidding site, but it’s a cool place to wander around in. If your 2019 plans include a trip to Central America, definitely put Granada, Nicaragua at the top of your list!
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Cover Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash
This article was written by Elisa Sorgini and Tara Turner